Constellation Theatre returns to in-person productions with ‘Moon Man Walk’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Moon Man Walk' (Part 1)

In February 2020, Constellation Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors” landed the most Helen Hayes Award nominations of any local theater production with 11 total nods.

A month later, it shut its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, pivoting to virtual shows.

On Thursday, Constellation Theatre reopens for in-person shows with “Moon Man Walk.”

“This is the first performance where we’re going to sell tickets and have audiences come watch the show, so it’s a very exciting time after a long, 18-month hibernation,” Managing Director A.J. Guban told WTOP. “Theater is such a communal experience, so to have the give and take between the audience and the actors is really exciting for everybody.”

Playwright James Ijames explores the grief of protagonist Spencer (Jonathan Del Palmer).

“A young man who is an only child is dealing with the loss of his mother, to whom he was very close,” Director Angelisa Gillyard told WTOP. “So we jump through space and time as he copes with his grief, but there’s also a lot of laughter and fun in it too.”

How does the titular space theme factor into the story?

“The space theme comes in from the story that his mother, Esther, tells him about where his father is growing up,” Gillyard said. “She tells him he is an astronaut stranded on the moon, and that’s why he’s not around.”

It’s all visualized by Guban, who serves as the set, lighting and projection designer.

“We’ve created a really abstract environment that resembles the surface of the moon that can also take place in a living room or a kitchen or in a grassy field at the cemetery,” Guban said. “We transform the space by using projections to have these different backgrounds to help tell the story of Spencer’s journey.”

Gillyard worked on Constellation’s inaugural production of “A Dream Play” in 2007.

“That was literally at the very, very beginning of my career, so I am always grateful to Constellation for providing that opportunity for me to learn, to practice,” Gillyard said.

Gillyard and Guban are both alumni from the University of Maryland in College Park. Guban got his M.F.A. in lighting design at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, while Gillyard served on the faculty in the business school before dabbling in theater.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” Gillyard said. “It was actually there where I started to meet people in the theater department that got me thinking seriously about directing … To say that the University of Maryland changed my life is an understatement. Literally it did.”

Audiences must provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for COVID-19. Masks are required indoors, except for eating and drinking in designated areas.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Moon Man Walk' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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